PROS / This card has a nice variety of popular I/O ports.
CONS / There is no front audio support.
VERDICT / As long as you have an extra power source you won’t be disappointed.
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To be honest, there is a good chance that the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award winning ASUS Xonar D2X is a better card than the HT Omega Claro Plus+. What tipped the scale in favor of the latter were the sample rates and resolutions. After multiple requests we still never got any information from ASUS to fill in the gaps. Because of the lack of information and the subpar email support, we bumped their sound cards down a few points, which put them just a hair under the Claro Plus+. Beyond that there are no complaints really. This is a multi-faceted card with a lot to offer, but if you're not convinced then read up on the other sound cards we reviewed.
The D2X is quite impressive when it comes to overall performance. Signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) give us a ballpark figure of how quality the sound is and both the output and input SNRs are around 118 dB which is quite impressive. There is just a pinch more harmonic distortion compared to the HT Omega's Claro Plus+ but since it's only 0.0001%, it's safe to say that you probably can't tell the difference. Both sound cards have 2 voltage regulator modules to keep the power flow in check where it's supposed to be.
The big plus that the D2X has over the HT Omega competition is the frequency response range. For some strange reason the Claro Plus+ as well as the Striker have a pretty weak range that doesn't even cover the "frequency range of the human ear", which they say is 20Hz to 20kHz. This ASUS card however covers it and more, being 10Hz to 46kHz @ 96kHz. It is important to get those lows low and the highs high because it makes for higher quality audio.
Sample Rate and Resolution
Here is where it would have been nice to have some feedback from ASUS about the missing information. We could only find the max sample rates and resolutions for analog playback, S/PDIF and ASIO. There is a good chance that all the rest follow the pattern of 24-bit at 192kHz but since we were unable to prove it, we were unable to compare it fairly. If that is the case then that would put this card up enough to make it superior to the Claro Plus+. For now though these two sound cards remain nearly even.
This ASUS sound card took a hit here with the shared headphones port and the lack of front audio. Front audio probably isn't a deal breaker since you can always just plug in your headphones and microphone to the back for video chat or gaming. That is only a little bothersome. It becomes more so if you are already using your 3.5mm output ports for your surround sound system and now have to unplug the left and right front audio to connect. For people who can't access the back of their computer without moving or adjusting it, this may be a bit irritating—especially if you switch between speakers and headphones frequently.
Aside from that you have both input and output combination S/PDIF ports to connect to other audio equipment. The combination port is quite convenient because you can connect either an optical or coaxial cable to it. Having that choice allows for preference and satisfies the need for either port. More and more you see the combination port which really is an improvement over being limited to one type or having ports for both types; that takes up a lot more room on your card.
First of all, this is a PCIe (PCI Express) card and no longer a regular PCI one. The difference is the newer PCIe card is basically a faster replacement of the older PCI. This is an improvement over cards that haven't upgraded yet, unless for some reason you run out of PCIe slots and your motherboard has an old PCI slot available. That isn't very common and as people upgrade to newer motherboards it will become less and less of an issue.
The Processor in this card is the ASUS AV200 which includes DTS encoding, unlike the AV100 that the ASUS Essence STX is using. Another improvement over the Essence is the built-in 10-band equalizer and echo cancellation for clearer VoIP (voice over IP) and other network/online voice communication. Beyond those it includes both Dolby Pro Logic II and Xear 3D support, which are used to simulate surround sound with only two speakers or headphones.
API Compliant Standards
One really nice thing about this sound card is the fact that it has support for most of the base APIs. It stops with some of the newer more extensive ones like Dolby Digital EX and DTS-ES but still covers more than most of the other cards we reviewed. It also has three main 3D audio positioning sound libraries, OpenAL, DirectSound and A3D. These are mostly used for gaming, and they basically help you hear what direction things are coming from. A lot of gamers use sound cards for these because it gives them an advantage over their opponent.
The ASUS Xonar D2X is one of the best cards on the market. Compared to the same price range competition, which was mostly HT Omega's Claro Plus+ and ASUS's Xonar Essence STX, it held up well. All three products are quite close in performance and audio quality. All three have their advantages, and for the D2X that is versatility. This is the safe-bet sound card that is compatible with most everything.